Synopsis: The definitive Ghostbusters documentary charts the making of the greatest supernatural comedy of all time.
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, William Atherton, Jennifer Runyon, Ivan Reitman, Alice Drummond, Timothy Carhart, Jason Reitman, Catherine Reitman, Kurt Fuller, David Margulies, Joe Medjuck, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Steve Johnson, Randall William Cook, Michael C. Gross, John Bruno, Ray Parker, Jr., Randy Edelman, Steven Tash, Michael Ensign, Bill Murray
Director: Anthony Bueno
Running Length: 128 minutes
TMMM Score: (8/10)
Review: It’s easy to look back at a perennial favorite like Ghostbusters and conclude it was a no-brainer from the start it would be the monster hit it became upon its release in June of 1984. The director was on a hot streak coming off of three consecutive box office winners, the cast was made-up of proven talent from the worlds of comedy in television and film, and audiences were promised the kind of special effects spectacle that had become a staple of the summer blockbuster. Collectively, this was the kind of ‘nothing but net’ slam-dunk that comes along once in a ghoulishly blue moon, and to hear the cast and crew in an extended version of the 2019 documentary Cleanin’ Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters tell it, the making of this landmark film wasn’t a rough ride for many. Met with enthusiasm and golden dollar signs, it’s gone on to weather a sequel that greatly divides it fans even to this day and a reboot that only deepens the chasm between supporters and those…otherwise inclined.
With a Jason Reitman-directed follow-up feature arriving in November (don’t forget, Jason is the son of Ivan who sat in the chair for the 1984 original and its sequel in 1989) I figured it was a good time to take in this newly released extended edition of this extensive making-of documentary which has been bouncing around for a few years. You can see a version that’s nearly a half hour shorter on Crackle, but this lengthier look at how a film originally conceived to be about a crew of janitors in the year 2010 who join a league of ghost hunters became what we know it as today is the more rewarding experience.
Director Anthony Bueno goes big and bold, christening this as the “definitive Ghostbusters documentary” and with the fine amount of detail covered in over two hours of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, I’m inclined to believe him. Of course, can anything about Ghostbusters be truly definitive without the participation of Bill Murray or Rick Moranis, neither of whom turn up in interviews here? Probably not, but taking that out of consideration Bueno sure has rounded up a bevy of production designers, producers, and actors, from the stars all the way down to a red-headed extra that’s seen in one of the final shots of the film. All speak fondly of their experiences on the film, with only Ernie Hudson continuing to go on the record with his justified disappointment over his character’s clear tokenism, a fact that’s basically acknowledged by several of the actors/writers.
Going all the way back to Dan Aykroyd’s family history that led him to come up with the basic concept of the film and then gathering the core team of creatives together, Bueno smoothly moves through each element of the production as it builds the movie from the ground up. Rarely are there any sources of conflict and from what we can assume, despite some pressure from the studio to make their deadline, the shooting and production went off without a hitch. So many of these documentaries feel like they’re put together to show what a terrible trial it was to produce such a classic but in Cleanin’ Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters you get the impression the goal is more to show that Ghostbusters was the result of multiple creative minds working cohesively from the same page. If there were problems, they’re not mentioned here.
I wish Bueno would have gone the extra mile and covered the sequel because I don’t think we’ll ever get an exhaustive dissection of that interesting misfire, which has its definite pros and cons. Perhaps in keeping with the positive spin the doc maintains throughout to examine the less successful follow-up would re-open a sore spot no one was in the mood to revisit. Instead, Cleanin’ Up the Town: Remembering Ghostbusters busies itself probing the great minds that thought alike for that magical stretch of time for their memories of their involvement, whether they were the actor inside The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, the actress playing the librarian at the beginning of the movie, or the puppeteer responsible for moving the tongue of one of the ghosts. For movie nerds, this is a heaven-sent doc that touches on multiple elements involved in the creation of Ghostbusters and a must watch to see how it all came together.